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Wow! This video lives up to that classic “How it’s Made” episode about Styrofoam, except this one reduces contributions to landfills. Look inside the Ecostar recycling facility in Wisconsin to see how plastic bottles are recycled. [via Core77]

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is head of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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Comments

  1. I would love to see this factory placed on massive cargo ships and used to process all the waste in the Pacific gyres.

    1. jamesskaar says:

      in the gyres the plastic breaks up into a monochemical sludge, pumping water in, heating it, the plastic would turn into solid lumps, or, may be that it’d be necessary to use filters, then recycle the filters, returning the salt to the ocean. much work, but a large part of it could be automated. people that go sailing, they almost do that, the ones that take reverse osmosis filters instead of bottled water.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful. I would like to see some homemade plants :D

  3. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful. I would like to see some homemade plants :D

  4. Helgi Már says:

    I´ve worked in a plastic container factory so I know how sensitive the machines are to dirt and other contamination’s, I´ve also have had a few courses on how to recycle plastic. To me this video sounds too good to be true.

  5. It really is a testament to our ingenuity as a tool-making species that we can do this — think about how many steps and machines they are talking about in the clip. But three things stand out to me:

    1) The most important step, the “ultra-clean” (which I assume uses some sort of super-critical CO2 wash to remove everything except very long-chain polymers. Anyone have any other guesses?) isn’t shown, which means it is super-proprietary, so most recyclers aren’t doing it. And we see this — most recycled plastic in food packaging is pre-consumer recycled.

    2) They keep talking about roll stock. This makes me suspect that their recycled polymer isn’t high-grade enough to injection mold for soda bottles (too much variation in polymer chain length, and therefore strength). Bottles-to-bottles recycling, rather than just “closing the loop” as the exec mentions early on, is critical for real waste elimination.

    3) Most importantly, the voiceover dude says that recycled plastic is 1/2 the carbon of virgin plastic to produce. Probably true, but you could also say that recycled plastic is only cheap the second time because it cost so much the first time. Honestly, this seems like a sort of a bad deal. Virgin aluminum, for example, takes about 20 times more energy than recycled aluminum to make the first time, but this only really becomes worth it because aluminum can be easily re-cycled almost indefinitely — after 20 or so recyclings, the original energy usage starts to fade compared to the recycling energy cost. Plastics degrade too quickly to enjoy this sort of re-cycling. Even with these fancy new methods, you’ll probably only get a few cyclings before the plastic is only good for fiber for fleeces, and then only for fill or industrial felt, or something very low-grade.

  6. dr says:

    The guy mentioned it only takes half the carbon to use recycled plastic. Good, but then the video showed plastic clam shell packages. We could reduce even more if we made those hated, wasteful things illegal. What’s wrong with a cardboard box?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting, didn’t realize it was such a complex process.

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